A Few Notes on Election Night

8 July 2024

(Originally posted on the Tocqueville 21 Substack)

Not a victory for any one party, but an overwhelming defeat for the far right.

Dear readers,

All cards are now on the table for the legislative elections. I will undoubtedly spend a good portion of the evening gloating about my projections – it was, apparently, only a shock to some – but before, there are a few important clarifications to make.

First: This is a massive defeat for the far right. With record turnout, voters have decisively rejected the Rassemblement National and its vision for the country. I suspect that this was what Macron hoped to clarify in calling the elections in the first place, and there will be consequences for the Parti à la Flamme moving forward.

Second: Macron’s Ensemble acquitted itself far better than anyone anticipated, which should be humbling to those on the left who would seek to claim a mandate to rule (as Mélenchon already has). Despite the President’s unpopularity, the center will survive until the next presidential race, and will remain powerful within France’s political context. These next years will serve to clarify who will lead them.

Third: The Left did better than anyone (well, almost anyone) predicted, but its unity will undoubtedly not survive the next few weeks. This was an electoral coalition, not any sort of effective solution for governance. In all probability, the next prime minister will be a Socialist, and members of more extreme left-wing parties will be swept away from power – that is, until they’re needed for another anti-far-right coalition.

Over the past few months, much of the anglophone press has presented a deeply cynical view about the future of France and the European Union, that both were destined to sink ever deeper into a miasma of xenophobic extremism. This was never true, and the results attested to it. But tonight decisively gave the lie to those assumptions. Despite an anticipated surge in the European elections, the far right did no better in 2024 than they did in 2019. And even in France, where the results seemed to suggest that eurosceptic populism had taken root, the far right has once again suffered a major blow in national elections.

There is, of course, a reason for that cynicism. In June and November 2016, the (Atlantic) anglophone world took a chance on nativism, ushering in a decade of dissarray. While Labour’s recent victory could be viewed as a triumph of reason over the chaos that has prevailed in the UK, the historically low voter turnout and divided vote insist instead that we understand it for what it really is: exhaustion.

Meanwhile in the US, voters are once again faced with a choice that dissatisfied them the first time around – and neither of the candidates is better for the waiting. Both parties have proven themselves incapable of offering any alternatives.

I understand the impulse to be cynical, and to view the worst of politics in all countries. But I would be wrong to do so. In this year, which has seen more electoral contests than any in recent history, voters across the planet have systematically rejected dogmatism, unilateralism, and the spirit of populist mania that has seemed so unavoidable in the US. Europe and France are the latest to attest to the fact that there is no ineluctability to these extremes – they need not be offered the chance to govern. There are paths forward that don’t lead to the far right.


Shane McLorrain

Managing Editor


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